A Corpus-based Study of I am thinking in Political Speeches
This paper examines the occurrence of I am thinkingin political speeches as opposed to general discourse. This combination containing a verb traditionally considered incompatible with the progressive seems to be evolving and extending its range of functions. Data drawn from a reference corpus of British English shows that I am thinkingserves a wide array of discursive functions, besides its basic propositional cogitate meaning (parenthetical, filler, narrative and interpretative). In political speeches the construction has developed an almost exclusive cohesive role, i.e. the speaker’s clarification of a previous utterance. This use, which derives from the interpretative progressive, is not available with the simple form, I think, a phrase extensively studied in the past decades as an epistemic unit with dissimilar functions in different types of discourse (Simon-Vandenbergen 2000). This analysis, furthermore, makes an important contribution to the understanding of the progressive as a marker of contingency (Goldsmith & Woisetschlaeger 1982; De Wit & Brisard 2014), highly interpretable in a situational or linguistic context.
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